A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: EMTHOMSON

Impruneta – Radda in Chianti – Fiesole

Day 36-38 (Oct 5-7th)

semi-overcast 18 °C
View JT's 60th Anniversary World Tour - The Sequel on EMTHOMSON's travel map.

Last couple of days of our holiday have approached so fast. The Wallace children are hoping to stay another week here – lovely thought!
JT and Jon spent Wednesday together touring down to Montalcino and Montepulciano for Brunello wine tasting. Brunello, Ferrari’s and Brunello gelato! They had a marvellous day together. I had a pool day for a change – my first one this trip! It has been lovely having the pool – we’ve swum most days until now.
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Thursday was Firenze tour day for the rest of the group – but JT and I opted to do a Chianti tour so headed off on the white roads to Greve-in-Chianti as a starting point. You know the signs that show the deer leaping across the road? Well it actually happened to us! The deer was so quick out of the trees just in front of us and over the road in one bound (not a very wide road admittedly) but we were pleased we weren’t a few seconds earlier!
From Greve we drove to Rada-in-Chianti, a lovely tiny hill top town (only hill top in Chianti apparently) and wandered around the town admiring the stonework, leather shops etc. before settling on a wee lunch spot. Had a great meal and JT savoured a local “super Tuscan” red wine while I enjoyed a very nice dry rosé.
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The plan then was to drive up to Fiesole on the north-eastern side of Firenze, but instead we found ourselves in this amazing national park area that had rock formations like the Pinnacles on the Wairarapa south coast. The sign said 40min walk – so off we went, but it wasn’t well sign posted and we ended up doing a 1 ½ hr loop! It was stunning, and great to have a walk that wasn’t on pavements!
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So Fiesole was the last trip of our adventure on Friday. Phil & Cathy and Mark & Marlene joined us for the day. We can see why the Etruscans settled up on the hill (and then had every other conqueror settle over the top of them – literally) the views are stunning and it would be much cooler in summer. The Medici’s used to summer up there too – and the rest of the Florentines – so there are some stunning villas to oooh and aahhhh over. Lovely wee church of San Francesco (Saint Francis of Asisi) at the very top of a knoll which had a stunning painting of the magi adoration of Jesus, will have to look up the painter.
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After lunch on the square (obligatory) we visited the Etruscan (alter stone and built over church) and roman ruins – bath house, sanctuary and auditorium, then the museum. The history of the area dates back to the 4th century B.C. It’s very easy to become blasé about the old buildings – but somehow see the ruins brought home just how long people have been living here.
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Last night dinner out in Impruneta - only 2 dinners out during the two weeks here! Then a very tired team hit the sack. Off to Milan tomorrow for a day experience before flying home.
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 20:46 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Lamole & Cathy’s Birthday, Shopping (again), Lucca

Day 33 - 35

semi-overcast 24 °C
View JT's 60th Anniversary World Tour - The Sequel on EMTHOMSON's travel map.

Slow start to the day – evening rain on our way home from the aria’s had dampened down the ground and resulted in early morning mist. Lovely to see.
As the day was a bit damp we decided to head to Lamole for lunch and a walk. This was a revisit of a restaurant in a wee town in Chianti that we’d visited in 2000. This time we weren’t disappointed – the drive there was spectacular up a wee winding road, past some stunning villas and old farm houses – the restaurant was as we remembered and the food was just as wonderful! A long lunch later we headed out to wander part or the ring walk, but sadly only managed a couple of kms as the rain again returned. So back to “our” villa for one of Phil’s meals – arancini this time!
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Shopping/Wine tasting day followed. The girls headed to the outlet mall that we’d visited earlier with Sarah – and enjoyed the day wandering around with no pressure on time or stress from crowds. The boys headed to some wine tasting in Chianti and also enjoyed themselves – found their spiritual home apparently!
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The day finished with a barbeque organised by Jen and Francesco – they brought along the meat, huge pieces of T-bone that were amazingly tasty, while we did the salads and dessert. Another fine evening at the villa!
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So the next day was a visit to Pisa for those that hadn’t been there this trip and then meeting up with the rest of the team at Lucca for lunch. What a fabulous place – Lucca. The town walls, the old town with its cobbled streets, the churches, the shopping! Very enjoyable day.
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Oops forgot to mention the wine tasting evening (the night before Sarah and Oli left) at the villa – this was a real surprise, traipsed across the road to view the vines (and olives) and a quick talk about the history of the vineyard and the vines. Then back to the villa to the cellar that we’d not realised was there! The winemaker/vineyard manager showed us the barrels and then proceeded to a tasting. The library stock was there as well in an area off to one side, all covered in dust – as it should be. There were bottles from 1964!
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 06:38 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Monteriggioni – Sienna – San Gimignano – shopping

Day 28-32

sunny 26 °C
View JT's 60th Anniversary World Tour - The Sequel on EMTHOMSON's travel map.

In 2000 the plan had been a walk followed by lunch at Il Pozzo restaurant in Monteriggioni (a walled hilltop Tuscan town) – but the walk took longer than anticipated and we never made it to the lunch. Pay-back time for Sarah! Monteriggioni is a small town that has records back to the 13th century. It has been beautifully restored/maintained, and we all enjoyed the visit. Unfortunately the restaurant had changed hands several times and while the situation was fabulous (outdoors under vines), the food, while good, was expensive.
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Next day Team Thomson with the Milnes in tow, headed into Firenze to do a tour of the shops and boutiques. Visited a wee place where a man was making these amazing leather coin purses – with no seams or stitching! Saw some lovely shoes and handbags, but neither Sarah or I made any purchases.
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Thursday was Sarah and Oli’s last full day with us, so the plan was an outlet shopping trip. We got a bit side tracked as we noticed a sign as we turned off the autostada, to “motodrome”. Oh, yes says Oli, Mugella race track is near here – well near is relative, only 16kms away! But it was worth the effort to see the track (it was a test day for a motorcycle event so lots of action) and we had a lovely lunch there too before heading back to the outlet “mall”.
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This was amazing – set outside along a stream with shops opening out onto the footpath. Fabulous afternoon wandering around, Oli was the winner of the shopping – jeans, jersey and a belt.
So, Friday saw us farewell Sarah & Oli at Firenze airport (lots of hugs) before heading down to San Gimignano to connect with the rest of the expedition. This is another walled town – but with the addition of a feud that resulted in towers being built by families – the taller the tower the more prestige. The towers were as impressive as we remembered, and the views out over the countryside stunning. JT and I also found a regional photo exhibition in the cloisters of the main church. Some stunning landscapes and street scenes.
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From here we headed across towards Castellina in Chianti for a little wine tasting. But as it was getting late in the day we headed further north to a wee place called Panzano in Chianti. The boys set about wine tasting while the girls went in search of coffee – and ended up having a “Fawlty Towers” experience in the old town area! Complete with a Basil look alike! Great fun.
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This was our last night with Rob and Jill – so a dinner out at Trattoria La Baracchin was planned. Our Kiwiguest host Jen’s husband Francesca works there so it came recommended! And we weren’t disappointed – really good food and lovely local wines.
So Saturday saw the Catell’s leave and Jon’s mum – Beverly arrive. We went for an 8.5km walk with Cathy and Phil, from the villa to a near-by town La Certosa – a small section of the walk that runs around Firenze. While some sections where on main roads (albeit narrow, no footpaths), most of it ran in small lanes amongst olive groves and vineyards, passing small hamlets and isolated churches. It was good to get out around Impruneta. We even saw a couple of deer in one olive grove. Oli had spotted some earlier on on one of his early morning rambles, but this was nearer noon, so lucky to spot them. JT had also surprised a snake on one of their joint rambles, according to Oli, JT moved very quickly in the opposite direction!
Jen picked up a group of us for an evening of Italian arias performed by young NZ opera singers. This was a pretty special event – run by Patricia Hurley and held at Villa Petrolo (about an hour away by autostrada from Impruneta). The evening was the culmination of a week-long intensive course for the 4 young singers from NZ – two sopranos - Eliza Boom and Katherine McIndoe, tenor Oliver Sewell, and baritone Kieran Rayner, which included daily Italian lessons as well as singing instruction! The conductor and pianist was Wyn Davies. We all enjoyed the performances which were fully dramatized – and which culminated in a haunting rendition of Pokarekare Ana which brought tears to our eyes. The evening finished with a buffet and a chance to chat to the performers.

Posted by EMTHOMSON 23:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Impruneta - Firenze

Day 26-27

sunny 28 °C
View JT's 60th Anniversary World Tour - The Sequel on EMTHOMSON's travel map.

Sunday was the annual parade of the harvest in Impruneta so no decision on what to do – we all decided to attend. It was the 90th year of the festival where 4 local towns vie for the trophy each year. The floats, the dancing and the costumes were amazing – but the banner waving display that started the show was also very impressive. Here’s a link if you’re interested in seeing the ‘official’ photos.
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Watched the first two ‘presentation’s’ then gave up and walked back to the villa – spotting the other 2 sets of floats and costumed parade participants on the way. It was definitely time for a swim again.
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As the supermarket was closed on Sunday (oops, missed that one), we had picked up some fresh pasta, parmesan cheese and salami for another of Phil’s wonderful creations. The salad selection was a bit meagre but was made up for by the pasta. Don’t think we’re going to let Phil off chef duties!
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The next day the Wallarchies and Cathy went over to a locals to help pick & crush the season’s grapes. Sounded very similar to small vineyard production in Martinborough so it was a day trip to Firenze for Team Thomson and Rob and Jill with Phil in tow. It is only 14kkms to the centre of Firenze from the villa and it wasn’t a complicated trip so we were soon parked near the Boboli gardens and wandering over the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci bridge in search of espresso.
Duly imbibed, we headed towards the railway station to the Basilica S. Maria Novella – black and white stripping of the marble intrigued us all. Then on to find a Perfumery just around the corner that I’d read was worth a visit. Well that was a highlight for me – as it was originally part of the abbey attached to S. Maria Novella, where the Dominican monks cultivated medicinal herbs used to prepare medications, balms and ointments for their infirmary, it was painted like a church. High arched ceilings etc. and shelves filled with beautiful glass bottles. The shop is still producing high quality herbal products (soaps, creams, perfumes, candles etc.) and has a wonderful aroma to it – not overpowering like Lush!
From there it was off to the Basilica di San Lorenzo – except we got side tracked by the leather markets in the Plazza San Lorenzo and then found the Mercato Centrale, a huge indoor food market. So a beer and lunch became the next item on the tour.
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Then round the Basilica and off to the Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – which Sarah remembered from 2000. The striking green and white marble is impressive. So too the security presence….there and as we walked on towards the Palazzo Vecchiio and the Galleria degli Uffizi. Too many tourists around and far too hot, so crossed the Fiume Arno via the Ponte Vecchio and gelato in hand headed past the Palazzo Pitti and (unfortunately missing the Boboli gardens by a street – on the list for next time) reached the cars. Hope I got all the names in there – it was a walk around the high spots for Sarah – we intend getting back in more detail next week.
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Back to the villa for a swim and another of Phil’s pasta creations – carbonara based this time.

Posted by EMTHOMSON 23:16 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Lerici - Villa La Querce, Impruneta

Day 25

sunny 24 °C
View JT's 60th Anniversary World Tour - The Sequel on EMTHOMSON's travel map.

`The last journey before our two weeks in the Tuscan villa just out of Impruneta. Away early heading to Pisa, hoping to beat a) the tour buses and b) the heat! Made if for a) but not b) – so glad we’re here in summer and not the height of summer, the heat then from the stone paving and buildings must be amazing.
We last saw the tower in 2000 when it was at its most angulated – how do you say it? Leaning the further-est? Whatever, it’s now stable and still looks amazing – loads of people paying to climb it too and going through a metal detector beforehand. High security presence.
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After an espresso break we headed off on the ‘slow’ roads (ie white roading again) towards Frienze, Impruneta and our villa La Querce (The Oak). Following a comment from JT about a tower on the hill over there, we headed towards it to investigate and found ourselves in the hill top town of San Miniato. This is the beginning of the old trading route between Firenze and Pisa and controlled the valley roads. Had a stunning lunch at a wee place outside, overlooking the valley. Eating outside makes everything (wine and food) taste soooo good.
Then Sarah and Oli navigated us using a map (i.e. not the GPS navigation system) to our villa. And a very good job they did too – considering the map (although and Italian touring map) didn’t have all the villages on the route!
And so to the villa – well, it’s stunning of course and the first order of the day was a swim in the pool which they’d kindly kept full for us. Apparently most people don’t swim this late in the season – their problem. It’s a 20 metre pool and lovely and clean, set amongst the olive trees below the house, very picturesque. The villa is furnished in period style (Marlene is loving it), but the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry are completely up to date! So we are 13 for the first night – Wallarcies (5), Team Thomson (4), Milnes and Cattells. The Leggett’s arrive in Firenze at 6am (train) from Vienna, JT has volunteered to collect them, and Oli is navigating.
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Quick dash to the supermarket in Impruneta and Phil worked his magic risotto recipe for us then we were off to bed.
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 13:41 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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